Tappara were in Group C with Swizz team HC Lugano and Adler Mannheim of the DEL. Wins in Switzerland and at home to Adler werev enough to send the team from Tampere into the next round.
Sun, Aug 21 Adler Mannheim (a) 1-4
After dropping their first CHL home game to HC Lugano, Adler Mannheim bounced back in a big way by beating Group C favourites Tappara Tampere with an impressive effort. With the win, they avoid the uncomfortable situation of coming away with zero points from their two home games.
Mannheim head coach Sean Simpson said afterward, "We were disappointed to lose to Lugano, but tonight we had a good response. Our special teams were good, which they weren't before, and that made the difference.
In fact, the first four penalties of the game all went to Mannheim, who killed them off. Then Tappara took two quick penalties and Mannheim scored on both power plays – first David Wolf in the 27th minute on a 5-on-3, then Chad Kolarik 57 seconds later on the remaining 5-on-4. When Ryan McMurchy scored even strength four minutes, later, Die Adler had the game firmly in their control.
Tempers flared the rest of the way, with a pair of fights, and the teams traded goals in the third period.
"Mannheim were better in the battles and on special teams – we have to improve on those," echoed Tappara head coach Jussi Tapola.
Tue, Aug 23 HC Lugano (a) 3-1
Having won in Mannheim, where Tappara Tampere lost in the next game, the HC Lugano played their first CHL game on home ice hoping to go clear at the top of the group. Things seemed to be going to plan for Lugano early on – just 5:37 on the clock when Dario Burgler opened the scoring for the home side. The scores stayed that way until early in the middle period, when Tappara brought themselves level through Otso Rantakari at 24:57 – a score which stayed through until the period had ended.
“I think it’s our fault we let Tappara come back into the game, they were efficient like we were tonight," Burgler said afterward. "In the second period we had a couple of great chances on the power play but we were unable to convert – maybe that would have changed the game. Saturday we have to play better 5-on-5, we have to create more chances and try to score some dirty goals against this team. From now on every goal is important, this group is very tight.”
In the final period it was Tappara who got the breakthrough and go-ahead goal, taking the lead at 41:00 – Teemu Nurmi's fine pass finding Arttu Ilomaki who fired past Daniel Manzato to put the Finns ahead for the first time in the game. Things got better for the visitors just over six minutes later – Henrik Haapala's initial shot was blocked but he managed to pound on the rebound and wrist the puck past an unsighted Mankato to double his side's lead. And that was how the game ended, despite an equal shot count of 29 each it was Tappara who took the game by two goals, winning 3-1 to leave a three-way tie in Group C.
Tappara coach Jussi Tapola summed up, “We had a hard start also today, but we were patient and we improved a lot since the game we played in Mannheim, we played wise with the puck, Lugano wanted to play up and down, we had to play together. In the 2nd period we start with the little things winning battles and we received the right energy to win this game. After the two goals scored in the third period we don’t let them come easy and they had really to work hard for one shot and we were controlling the game.”
Lugano coach Doug Shedden was disappointed with his team's performance in their CHL home opener, and was at a loss to explain their lack of fight in the game. "I think Tappara were the hungrier team, they won a lot of battles, and maybe our guys weren't ready to battle tonight. We certainly didn't have our A-game tonight, and I'm disappointed with that. It was our first Champions League home game, and I'm disappointed we weren't ready for it – but give Tappara credit, they worked hard, played a good road game, and were the better team," he said in the post-game interview.
Sat, Aug 27 HC Lugano (h) 1-3
Tappara finished up strong on the road in Lugano and started the first few shifts of this game where they left off, attacking hard from the opening faceoff, but it was Lugano that scored against the run of play – Ryan Gardner intercepting a pass and springing Alessio Bertaggia in alone, beating Teemu Lassila far side. With the game not even four minutes old Damian Brunner made it 2-0 for the visitors, and the home fans were stunned. Tappara recovered and got one back at the 8:30 mark – defenceman Valtteri Kemilainen with a nice wrister, but Elvis Mezlikins was solid the rest of the period in the Lugano goal. In fact, he wasn't beaten for the rest of the game, stopping 28 of 29 shots overall. The second period was back and forth with a lot of shots both ways, but both teams were strong in front of their own nets and forced shots from far out, making things easier for both Mezlikins and Lassila. With 5:25 left in the middle frame, however, veteran defenceman Julien Vauclair restored Lugano's two-goal lead. In the third, Lugano left nothing to chance and put the game on lock-down, frustrating Tappara attacks again and again – limiting the defending Finnish champs to just four shots on goal. They held on to win 3-1, and now lead Group C with six points.
"Both teams have been perfect hosts," Lugano coach Doug Shedden wryly grinned after his team has won in both Mannheim and Tampere. As for Tappara, he said, "They played very well in our rink (on Tuesday), you gotta give 'em credit. Our team bounced back and played a pretty good game tonight and Elvis was great in goal – that always makes things easier when you've got a good goalie. We got a good start but, you know, you've gotta be careful because those 2-0 leads are the worst in hockey, I don't know why. But we played a really good game after that, limited their chances, and I'm happy with the win."
"For the most part, we played well," said Tappara coach Jussi Tappola. "The start was tricky – two chances and two goals. We created chances, but shot quality was weak and in some parts we didn't shoot enough. We have still lot to do with both offensive and defensive sides of the game."
When asked about any change in Lugano's game from the team's first encounter, Tappola replied, "For sure, they defended smarter than they did at home. The overall picture of the game was quite similar, but there they didn't get goals early and we were able to score goals from our own chances. Some aspects of the game were similar, but they improved their defending, especially in the neutral zone."
Sun, Sep 11 Adler Mannheim (h) 2-1
Needing a regulation win, Tappara got off to a blazing start on home ice, scoring just 31 seconds in as Aleksi Elorinne's shot from the point was stopped by Dennis Endras, but Henrik Haapala was there to put in the rebound. Then two minutes in Teemu Nurmi was tripped from behind and was awarded a penalty shot and hit the goal post. As the period wore on, Mannheim got a couple of power plays and threatened to tie the score, but in the last minute of the opening period it was Veli-Matti Savinainen who fired a low wrister from the face-off dot that beat Endras, and send Tappara to the intermission with a two-goal lead. Now in a bit of a hole, Mannheim owned the second period, out-shooting Tappara 13-2; however, Dominik Hrachovna was brilliant in Tappara's net. The only shot to beat him came in the 2 6th minute, when Marcus Kink backhanded in a loose puck right in front. The third period was a bit of a different story, as Tappara locked the game down. A goal to send it to overtime would have finished them, but Mannheim really didn't get a sniff, as each team had 7 apiece. A regulation win was what they needed, and it was exactly what Tappara got to see themselves through to the Round of 32. Head coach Jussi Tapola was pleased with the job of his team.
“We responded to their physical style of play well," the Tappara coach said after. "We were clearly better in the first period. The second period was messed up a little by the penalties. The third period was mainly good but our own attacking was sometimes such that it created chances for the opponent. Most of our players played an excellent game today. Our power play was quite good today. We had good foundations there but lacked results. The penalties were partly justifiable and some were interpretations but that is what this is going to be.”
“We are of course disappointed that we lost. Tappara played a good and disciplined game. They had a better first period than we did tonight and they deserved to win,” said Mannheim head coach Sean Simpson. “I think that our penalty killing was very good. It was a hard-fought game, like a playoff game. In the physical game we had no difficulties.”
“The CHL is a good tournament," Simpson continued. "I am a believer in the CHL and I'm positive about it. I think that it's a good thing that club teams play against each other all over Europe. It's a good variable and a good advertisement for club ice hockey. I'll very happily come back next year if possible.”
"Of course we keep CHL in high esteem," Tapola responded. “We had a tough group – both Lugano and Mannheim are surely top teams in their own leagues. Getting to the playoffs especially from this group was a good performance."